‘The Bachelor:’ What’s Next After the Franchise’s Most Contentious Season?

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Season 25 of The Bachelor was always going to be noteworthy. However, the franchise’s first season featuring a Black male lead was steeped in significance for many other reasons, ranging from bullying, to racism allegations. The Final Rose has been awarded, everyone was sent home, and the franchise is welcoming two new co-hosts. But where does The Bachelor go from here?

Last night (March 15), the season finale of The Bachelor premiered and, not unlike the rest of Matt James’s season, was endlessly frustrating. People, if your significant other ever calls proposing to you “the most difficult decision of [their] life?” RUN!

And the women on Matt’s season went through a lot. From the beginning, there were reports of a toxic house environment and rampant bullying, both on and off screen. However, those issues paled in comparison to the complete identity crisis suffered by the franchise after photos surfaced of (then rumored) Season 25 winner Rachael Kirkconnell at an “Old South” themed fraternity party. Shortly after, longtime host Chris Harrison stepped back indefinitely from his hosting duties after defending Rachael’s actions and invoking the “woke police” as the problem, rather than Rachael’s behavior.

In the end, though, none of that could divert Matt’s search for love. He did that all by himself. The nail in the coffin this season: Matt James was simply not ready for a serious relationship, let alone engagement or marriage. When forced to choose between two women he purported to love, he essentially chose neither. A collective groan reverberated across Bachelor Nation when Matt James bent down on his metaphorical knee to Rachael Kirkconnell, finally popping that pivotal question: Will you be my girlfriend? Twitter nearly went up in flames.

This season could have been an email and everyone would have been better off.

But now that this train wreck of a season has finally come to a close, what is next for The Bachelor franchise? Simply put, things are going to carry on as planned, with only a few changes. The 17th and 18th seasons of The Bachelorette will be airing back to back this year. Two contestants from Matt’s season, Katie and Michelle (who was the first runner up on last night’s finale), will embark on their own journeys to find love in the Summer and Fall of this year, respectively.

In terms of the franchise’s tenuous relationship with racial equity, Chris Harrison will be replaced by two new co-hosts, Tayshia Adams (Season 16) and Kaitlyn Bristowe (Season 11). The franchise seems to be moving forward sans male leads of any kind for the foreseeable future. Let’s hope these women are a little more decisive than Bachelors past, and the franchise as a whole continues to reckon with the issues baked into the shows. Replacing Harrison and focusing on the women is a good start, but it’s just a start. Until significant change is made, like Matt James, we’ll hold back from committing for the moment.

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